There is nothing stranger than success. The moment the creature arrives, it subtly alters the very work we did to become successful in the first place. Whatever measure of happiness we find in our work, once we have arrived at a goal- whether it be setting up a business, signing up to a new job, writing a book or banking a sizeable amount of money- it takes incredible skill not to be captured by the very structures for which we longed so deeply in the first place and which originally seemed so grand and radical. Human beings seem to have the virtuoso ability to turn any sudden gift of freedom or spaciousness into its exact opposite. The mantle of possibility descends upon us and instead of warming and emboldening, covers our face and our eyes. The corporate climber reaching the executive suite at last and expecting freedom and a clear field for maneuver, is astonished to find himself hemmed by politics, harangued by investors and mauled by the media. The writer finally given the advance for which she has longed for years, discovers, the moment it is banked, exactly the moment she can’t seem to get to her desk as easily. When she does find herself before the open page, she finds she suddenly has nothing to work against, or too much to work against. Something has changed. Before, she worked alone and her voice seemed singular and innocent. Now her writing is at the center of an enormous industry spreading out in ripples from the grain of her pine desk. She tries to create too much meaning in too short a space, or her style takes on a pleasing tone that robs her of her original voice. Part of her longs secretly for the time when she went unrecognized, but she cannot send back the check, the very thing that tells her she has arrived…reaching the citadel of success we long for the real, the original, the uncorrupted, but something seems to have insulated us from originality. The Greeks called this phenomenon of inversion and capture, Enantiadromia, the dynamic whereby anything followed unthinkingly, turns into its exact opposite. Midas touches his daughter and turns her to gold. His one dimensional super human power changing everything he loves into a currency that can never replace the real underlying pulse of a living breathing life…the greater the success the more we need a fierce vigilance to stay true, the greater the outward structure, the clearer and simpler the foundation must be…
Adapted from the Chapter: “Outlaw Imaginings”
In: Crossing the Unknown Sea:
Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity.